30 episodes

What led to the rise of the modern world? How have we made so much progress, and what are its consequences? What are humanity's best ideas? Join award-winning historian Brad Harris as he engages these fundamental questions and interprets the biggest historical forces that shape their answers, from the rise of civilization and the development of modern science to the spread of disease and the growth of globalization.

Context with Brad Harris Brad Harris, Historian

    • History
    • 4.7 • 431 Ratings

What led to the rise of the modern world? How have we made so much progress, and what are its consequences? What are humanity's best ideas? Join award-winning historian Brad Harris as he engages these fundamental questions and interprets the biggest historical forces that shape their answers, from the rise of civilization and the development of modern science to the spread of disease and the growth of globalization.

    Urban Versus Rural

    Urban Versus Rural

    There’s a lot that’s dividing Americans right now - lots of divisive narratives that have captivated lots of people. One of those narratives features the apparent widening political divide between urban and rural culture. But, the truth is that the evolution of America’s urban and rural communities has always been symbiotic.
    One of the best historical case studies of that symbiosis highlights the city of Chicago and the rural American west, documented by William Cronon in his award-winning book, Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West, published in 1991. In this episode, we reconsider the relationship between urban and rural in light of that history.
    To help support Context and access bonus content, join me on Patreon.
    Learn more on my website.

    • 31 min
    Notes On Tribalism

    Notes On Tribalism

    "Notes on Nationalism" was an essay written by George Orwell in 1945, just as World War II was ending. It caused quite a stir at the time, but most people these days have never heard of it. Nonetheless, "Notes on Nationalism" remains one of the most powerful examples of Orwell's timeless insight into human nature; in this case, focused on our instinct to gang up on each other, our instinct for tribalism.
    Orwell never used the term "tribalism" himself -- he wrote this essay a generation before that term became widespread. However, I suspect his essay was a primary factor in raising awareness of the social pathology of tribalism, and his diagnosis of the problem precisely captures the liabilities of tribalism plaguing us today.
    To help support Context and access bonus episodes, join me on Patreon.
    Learn more at bradharris.com

    • 22 min
    The Fate of Universities

    The Fate of Universities

    Like many others, I’ve begun to worry about the fate of higher education in American society.
    Having spent most of my professional life in academia, my instinct is to regard the university system as sacred - as Wisdom’s Workshop, to borrow the historian James Axtell’s recent book title.
    Liberal democracy relies on a very well educated citizenry. And, modern civilization more generally relies on a significant number of us possessing hard-earned historical perspective on what is true and what is good, and hard-earned scientific perspective on the full reach of human potential.
    Any threat to the university system should worry us. Today, there appear to be multiple, and the most frustrating thing of it is... those threats seem to be mostly self-imposed.
    In this episode, I highlight those threats and explore the history behind the legacy of modern knowledge.
    To help support my work and access bonus episodes, visit patreon.com/bradcoleharris
    Learn more at bradharris.com

    • 38 min
    Explaining Postmodernism: A Conversation with Stephen Hicks

    Explaining Postmodernism: A Conversation with Stephen Hicks

    In this episode, I invited the philosopher and author Stephen Hicks on the podcast to chat about his book, Explaining Postmodernism.  Stephen has been a Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University in Illinois for nearly 20 years, and he's published widely on the history of philosophy, ethics, and politics.  
    The reason I invited Stephen on the show is because I think postmodernism planted the seeds of the illiberalism that's erupting throughout our society today, and Stephen Hicks literally wrote the book on that development.  In my opinion, his insight is critical because the battle of ideas postmodern thinking provokes could very well determine the fate of liberal democracy our lifetime.
    To learn more about Stephen Hicks, I encourage you to visit his website, stephenhicks.org, or follow him on Twitter.
    To help support Context and access bonus episodes, visit https://www.patreon.com/context
    Learn more at https://bradharris.com

    • 1 hr 1 min
    Escaping the Cycle of History

    Escaping the Cycle of History

    What’s that line attributed to Mark Twain?...
    "History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes."
    As the authors Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote in their best-selling book The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, published in 1997, “The reward of the historian is to locate patterns that recur over time and to discover the natural rhythms of social experience.”
    According to the pattern they predicted, we should currently be in the midst of a great historical crisis. Are we? If so, what happens next?
    To help support Context and access supporter-only episodes, head to patreon.com/context
    For more information visit bradharris.com

    • 33 min
    Reflections from A Distant Mirror

    Reflections from A Distant Mirror

    Plague, political upheaval, the looming prospect of another civil war... what century are we in?
    To retain historical perspective, and to find inspiration in how humanity has recovered from far greater upheavals in the past, we turn to Barbara Tuchman's classic work, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.
    What we find in the late Middle Ages is a vision of hell, along with overwhelming evidence that the best of humanity can endure the worst.
    To help support Context and access supporter-only episodes, head to patreon.com/context
    For more information visit bradharris.com
     
     

    • 39 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
431 Ratings

431 Ratings

abcrystcats ,

Thought Provoking

Just discovered this podcast series a few days ago and I cannot stop listening. In this series of podcasts, Harris is using book synopses in a particular order to explain the transformation of our culture. It’s a unique approach. He’s succeeded in clarifying the angst so many of us feel about our present world. While he’s not apolitical, his position is fairly centrist and there is much that everyone can get from this series. Can’t say enough good things about it! My eyes are opened.

Mlbstar99 ,

Top 10 podcasts. 🙌🏽

This is a must listen podcast!

amerigovonhistory ,

A must!

If you are a history lover this podcast is a great way to supplement your reading list. I’d love to hear you have a discussion with historian Thaddeus Russell; not only would it be a great historical discussion, but he would be able to push back a little on the postmodernism front.

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